Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both the mother and the baby. Apart from developing a strong immune system in infants, breastfeeding has many other health benefits and prevents chronic diseases. The repercussions of not breastfeeding infants could be detrimental to their health and well-being in the long term. Dr Sandhya Rani, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Apollo Cradle – Brookefield highlights some of the adverse effects of not feeding breast milk to your baby.
There might be an increased incidence of infectious morbidity causing ear infections, chest or respiratory infections, tooth decay, gastroenteritis including diarrhoea or vomiting and pneumonia apart from problems of childhood obesity due to formula feed causing a risk of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, leukaemia and other dreaded diseases.
Infants who aren’t adequately breastfed may also experience higher rates of asthma and childhood wheezing. Infants who are breastfed infants are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life. Breast milk contains hormones that help in regulating food intake. The total calorie intake is lower in breastfed infants and higher intake of calories in infancy is associated with obesity in later part of childhood.
Avoiding breastfeeding leads to health hazards for mothers too! They may be susceptible to breast or ovarian cancer and there is substantial evidence to indicate that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer and protects against ovarian cancer.
According to reports that assessed the country’s policies on breastfeeding babies and infants, more than half of newborns in India are not being breastfed within the first hour of their birth called as the ‘Golden Hour’. The Business Standard reports that India ranked 56 out of 76 countries on early initiation of breastfeeding according to the 2018 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard.
The Unicef report says that around 95 per cent of children in India is breastfed at some point in their early years. However, this is not adequate and only 41.6 per cent of babies are breastfed within the first hour of birth in India as reported by LiveMint. According to the fourth edition of the National Health and Family Survey, only 54.2 per cent of women in Karnataka breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and the state has set a target of 65.2 per cent by the end of the year 2025.
These statistics are alarming and the majority of babies in India still miss out on breastfeeding that could lead to life-threatening consequences for babies. Formula feeding is just an alternative and doesn’t have the qualities of a mother’s breast milk that’s protective in nature. Formula feed has to be a last resort measure in certain medically approved conditions only.
Breastfeeding is the foundation of life and must be made a norm mandatory for every mother to breastfeed as it is the birthright of every infant to be breastfed.